“Without wonder and insight, acting is just a business. With it, it becomes a creation.”
Film, TV, Theatre, Broadway, Hollywood your name in lights, the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd. For a budding Thespian, it doesn’t get much better than this. And if you are on the ‘A’ list, there’s the money. Imagine getting paid while pretending to be someone else. How good is that?
Mastering the craft
Yes, it really is a craft. Pros know it and so should you. As such, there’s a huge amount to learn on your journey to success. From local mentors and coaches to world-class drama schools, no matter what level of accomplishment you achieve, there is always something else to learn. Perfection is the brass ring we reach for (really it’s a gold statue called Oscar) and there are only a few who actually make it. Being positive means starting to write your acceptance speech now. Acting classes come in many forms. Improve, Comedy, Classical Shakespeare, Cinéma vérité, Mime and more, all help to give you a well-rounded education and become so much better at your craft. The more versatile you are, the more opportunities you will make for yourself throughout your career.
Live where the work is.
Location, location, location. Works in Real Estate and acting. Beyond L.A and NYC, North American production centers include Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver in Canada, Atlanta, Miami, Boston, Albuquerque and almost any big city that gives production companies financial credits for shooting there. Casting for bit parts, extras and SBE’s, (special business extras) are on-going and to get a call you need to be there. Living in Oshkosh won’t get you much film work. If you’re serious, go where the action is to ply your trade.
It takes personal sacrifice to make it.
In pursuit of your craft, be prepared to make changes to your present way of life.
Home town relationships with family and friends may have to be put on hold for a while. Thankfully there is face time on the internet and dropping by is just a selfie away.
As with plying your craft, staying connected takes effort. In both cases the rewards are great. Climbing the ladder by paying your dues is part of the process. Get used to it.
FYI, Before becoming one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood, Johnny Depp worked as a telemarketer. He sold ballpoint pens over the phone in support of his acting career.
All or nothing at all
Beyond the title of an old song, ‘A’ listers are consumed by their roles. I remember once working with Jim Henson of Muppet fame. He had Kermit on his arm. When I asked Jim a question, Hanson didn’t answer. Kermit did. Now that’s consumed.
You meet the same people on the way up as you do on the way down.
Play nice with everybody, especially with people ‘on set’. They can make you or break you in an instant. I’ve seen it happen many times. Someone in the Biz you treated poorly a few years ago might eventually become a talent agent or casting director. Better they remember you as a good guy. It helps.
Agents or Craft. You pick.
Great agents can help you get a job in the Biz even if you’re not a good actor. If you are a great actor, you can get a job through a lesser-known Agent. Being good at your craft is good. Being great at it is even better. Much better. Caveat Emptor. If an Agent wants up-front money for their services, find another agent. You pay them to get you a job not to maybe get you a job.
Oh, Oh. I forgot my lines
Especially in the ‘Live’ theatre, actors who have been exposed to Improve can save the day. Imagine halfway through an intense scene, your partner freezes or forgets his or her lines.
Because you’re ‘live’ you can’t do take 2. Improve to the rescue. And if you’re really good at it, only the stage manager will notice the flub.
Beyond type casting
Clint Eastwood made his debut on the big silver screen in the genre called Spaghetti Westerns. The tough-guy persona served him well throughout most of his career. When he made and acted in Million Dollar Baby, although still gruff, he was a much different character from his early days. He grew far beyond his original range. Consider doing the same on your journey. Not only is it endearing to audiences, but it will also open many new doors as your talent expands.
Waiting for the phone to ring
So you graduated from a reputable acting school, been a film extra a few times and even appeared in the BG of a few commercials. A star in the making? Not so. You forgot to pester Casting Directors, Agents and any or all the film people you know while looking for work. Meet and greets, pound the pavement, knock on doors, see and be seen and smile a lot goes hand in hand with success. Sitting waiting for the phone to ring you could die of old age. Persistence is a virtue. Be virtuous in your quest for work.
Patience. Virtue # 2
Many actors dwell on the fringe of success for years before getting a real break to become ‘A’ listed or close to it. For example, Judy Dench got her break when she was 61. She played James Bond’s boss, ‘M’ in the film GoldenEye. She has since won an Oscar and been nominated for 6 others. Stardom took time and now ‘Dame’ Judy Dench no longer has to play stage roles in small theaters and build her reputation.
Following these 10 tips, I trust will serve you well. There’s no business like Showbusiness.
That’s a wrap.